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KHL’s SKA Saint Petersburg announces signing of Kovalchuk

Jul 15, 2013, 8:57 AM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk Getty Images

What has been assumed and reported for days has been officially announced. Ilya Kovalchuk has inked a four-year contract with SKA Saint Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.

Last week, Kovalchuk sent shock waves through the hockey world when he decided to retire from the NHL despite having $77 million left on his 15-year, $100 million contract. Kovalchuk’s decision left the New Jersey Devils with a massive hole in their lineup, not to mention a $250,000 annual cap recapture penalty through 2024-25.

On top of that, the Devils don’t have a first round draft pick in 2014 as punishment for their first attempt to sign Kovalchuk.

Following his retirement, it quickly became apparent that Kovalchuk would head to the KHL to extend his career. His mother suggested that this had been on the 30-year-old forward’s mind since January and he was influenced by his time with SKA during the lockout.

Taxation in the United States as well as the NHL’s escrow rules were also apparently factors as it’s believed that Kovalchuk stands to benefit financially from this maneuver. SKA hasn’t released the financial terms of their agreement with Kovalchuk.

The next time a wide North American audience sees him on the ice might be during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Team Russia and the United States will be in the same division.


Two silver linings for Devils in Kovalchuk retirement

Parise is ‘shocked’ Kovalchuk left New Jersey

What they’re saying about Kovalchuk bolting for the KHL

So, what’s next for the Devils without Kovalchuk?

Devils players didn’t see Kovalchuk retirement coming

With Kovalchuk gone, Devils pursue Damien Brunner

Cherry says Kovalchuk is ‘just laughing all the way to the bank’

Agent: Kovalchuk’s departure won’t lead to Russian exodus

Elias: Kovalchuk move wouldn’t affect choice to stay with Devils

Could Kovalchuk return to the NHL in 2018?

Columnist says lockout prompted Kovalchuk’s departure

  1. ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    while laughing, Kovy sarcastically says “too soon?”

  2. amityvillefun - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    Completely porked NJ. They sold the ranch for this guy and he left town!

    I was a fan… “was”

    Enjoy the rubles, Kovy. Elias has more class than you’ll ever have.

    • ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:31 AM

      making me hungry dude. pork and ranch? like lamb and tuna fish

    • Tyler - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM

      My initial reaction was: “Man, Devils fans must be pissed!” but he just free up a LOT of cap space.

    • lonespeed - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:50 AM

      He has the right to do whatever he wants with his life. If he doesn’t want to play for a U.S. employer then he has the right to leave. It’s no different than you or me choosing to make a career move to another company to further our own personal agenda.

      We get one shot at this life. If it is Kovalchuk’s own personal agenda to live, work and play closer to his family and he has the means to do so, who are you to throw stones?

      Turn the tables. If it was in the New Jersey Devils best interest to cut ties with Kovalchuk, do you think they would hesitate to do so? Professional sports is a cut-throat business. Business goes both ways.

      I wish fans would have some perspective sometimes. “You burned my team. I hate you now,” is such a juvenile approach. It’s not like he left to go play for the Philadelphia Flyers. He left the league to pursue what he considers a better life. If you have a problem with that, then maybe you should move to Russia where freedom isn’t such a big deal.

      • nj666 - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:04 AM

        I’m guessing you have no idea what commitment means, or what signing contract means.

      • ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:06 AM

        here’s the difference. at your job, you (most likely) don’t sign a contract. every hockey player signs the contract that the team signs. now, i know you can’t enslave a person to work a job based on signing a contract, but when you DO sign a contract, you’re giving your word that you’ll follow through.

        my job sent me to school (team training, in Kovy’s case). i signed a contract that said I wouldn’t leave until a certain amount of years is up (much like Kovy). now, after taking their money for school (resources/facilities/pay/benefits, in Kovy’s case), would it not be a dick move to quit before the contract is up and take what they’ve given me to make money for somebody else? the Devs have put a lot of developmental work/effort/money into this guy and built a team around him. sure, he can do what he wants, but we are certainly entitled to drop our appreciation for the guy too.

      • ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:06 AM

        lol nj666 beat me to it in far less words.

      • lonespeed - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:27 AM

        You guys don’t seem to understand that the contracts are in place as an agreement between parties to play within that league. Those contracts don’t have any jurisdiction outside of that league.

        In general terms the contracts state we will compensate you XXX amount over such amount of time to play for our team and not for any other team within this league, and you cannot break this agreement to play for another team within this league.

        He ‘retired’ from the league so he is not bound by that contract in any way. He is forfeiting his right to play in the NHL, which is a decision he has made on his own accord. It is now up to his employer to find a replacement.

        People end contracts early all the time. They are not written in blood like some pact with the devil (pun not intended). For example, Brad Stevens of Butler University just left a very lucrative contract to take a job with the Boston Celtics. No reasonable person is vilifying him for doing so.

      • credible316 - Jul 15, 2013 at 12:03 PM


        “I’m guessing you have no idea what commitment means, or what signing contract means.”

        If he didn’t perform well you would have no problem releasing a player. People seem to forget that it works both ways.

        When a player leaves it’s betrayal but when a team gets rid of a player it’s just buiseness?

      • ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        i get that the contract is within the league, lonespeed. that doesn’t change my point that we can hold him under whatever dickhead code we want to as well. not saying he doesn’t have the legal RIGHT to do what he wants. just saying it’s kinda bullsh** to do what he did when he committed to the team, even if just morally.

        also, if i cared one bit about basketball to have heard about this guy dropping his contract, I probably would think the same about him. although, i think when they sign a contract in college there’s more of an understanding to the school that the coach could randomly leave to take a deal in the majors. they probably have an idea that that might be coming at some point. the Devs didn’t when they signed that contract with him.

        and just a note: i wasn’t agreeing with nj666 on the “signing a contract” part, more so on the “commitment” part.

      • hockeyflow33 - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:58 PM


        So I’m assuming you have a big problem with buyouts and salary reductions since that is the other side not honoring the contract?

    • lateralous - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      …and in his prime, Elias was a better player than Ilya will ever be. 96 points and a +45 in the dead puck era on the Devils is better than anything Kovy ever did, nevermind the discrepancy in two way play. That doesn’t even bring up clutch scoring in the playoffs either.

      Even in 2013, bringing Patty back was the most important thing for the Devils.

    • joey4id - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      NJ were fools to sign him. not only were they penalized by the NHL for doing so, they lost him to a rival league. More and more players will be doing the same unless the league restructures. KHL is not going anywhere soon.

      • nj666 - Jul 15, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        Yeah their totally “fools” for not seeing that he would bolt to a second rate league two seasons after reaching the finals…

    • cofran2004 - Jul 15, 2013 at 2:01 PM


  3. crustytoes - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    The only fact that doesn’t change is that the Rangers STILL SUCK!

    • cofran2004 - Jul 15, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      less than the devils, apparently.

      • lateralous - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:27 PM

        “Henrique, it’s over!!!!!”

      • cofran2004 - Jul 16, 2013 at 11:33 AM

        two years ago. what happened THIS year?

  4. 950003cups - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    It’s the greediest, unethical, classless move to do. When you sign a contract at that magnitude, and your employer took heavy punishment to make it happen, you don’t do that.

    That move has never been done in that fashion. It happens to kids who are healthy scratches, or are stuck in the AHL. Not a premier name.

    He might even have a tough time getting paid if he doesn’t perform. This is a broke league that couldn’t save Cherpanov (sp) cause they didn’t have simple equipment. Same league that flew an entire team to their deaths on a rickety old plane. Same league that had a goalie on their team, John Grahame, arrested just to void his contract. A lot of big names went to the KHL and all of them flew back here to play a good brand of hockey.

    I guess he didn’t want to be under the shadow of guys like Datsyuk, Ovechkin and Malkin. I guess his ego got the best of him and now he could be the big dawg in the KHL.

    • ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:33 AM

      in reality, he may not even make as much in Russia. when that contract ends, he’ll be 34 or 35 or w/e and have made 60mil over the last 4 years. that’s all good and well, but then his play over those 4 years will have to guarantee a team over there that he’s worth 17mil more before he retires to meet up with what the Devs committed. sure…. he probably won’t have to play for another 11 years to make that money, but what’s he gonna do aside from hockey afterwards? IMO, he woulda been monetarily better off just taking that “guaranteed” 77mil and playing til he’s 40.

      i hope he falls off statistically and doesn’t get renewed for anywhere close to that much after this 4 year is up.

      • lateralous - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:41 AM

        You’re forgetting taxation. I think he’ll get taxes 13% on the 60 million as opposed to 50% on 77 million. I don’t think there’s any question this is the better financial move, it’s his legacy that takes the hit.

      • ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:56 AM

        where does this 50% come from. I’m not arguing it, I’ve just never seen a 50% tax bracket in the states. or is that because he’s not a US citizen but living legally?

      • ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:58 AM

        also, i’d like to see a real evaluation of Russia’s taxes. i know nothing about their code, but i’d assume, at 13% income tax, that there’s other forms of taxation that haven’t been included into the evals I read on Kovy.

      • somekat - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:38 AM


        The top tax bracket in the U.S. has been paying near 50% for years. It’s nothing new (not corporations, individual income tax). Most people who make the big bucks have ways to get a good amount of their salary tax free (stock options etc), but obviously pro athletes can’t do that. This is total tax, not just federal income, but all taxes put together.

      • DED - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:56 AM

        Federal income tax, state income tax, property tax on homes and cars. I don’t know if he had to pay FICA (better known as social security and medicare). The top federal income tax bracket was 35% but for 2013 it’s 39.6%.

      • ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        yeah see, “This is total tax, not just federal income, but all taxes put together.”
        but the 13% number is just Russian income tax. lateralous was comparing 2 different numbers too. that’s why i’d still be interested to see the Russian tax breakdown from all sources. who’s to say they don’t have crazy amounts of sales or property or city tax? but again, i’m not taking a hard stance either way really…. i don’t know enough about foreign tax codes.

      • DED - Jul 15, 2013 at 12:27 PM

        There is no direct comparison. The Russian government owns many of its natural resources whereas in the US that sort of thing is privately owned. The Russian government gets anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 its revenue from oil and natural gas sales. This is why the income tax is lower in Russia.

  5. bayafan - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    As a devils fan I feel like meh. On one hand the devils lost a draft pic and the offense took a hit but it frees up cap space and it looked like he was starting to become injury prone.

  6. pavelfitzgerald - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Well said lonespeed

  7. chrisk61 - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    this bum and bryzgalov will be lying in deep snow in russia some -20 F nite, making snow angels, staring at the sky.

    this bum: “comrade ilya, pass the vodka.”
    bryzgalov: “comrade ilya, try this. it is cheesesteak. from philly. but better when not frozen”

    lesson here is to not sign a guy named ILYA. or ALEXEI as in yashin.

    • lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:58 AM

      I dunno, those stinkin Red Wings somehow got the most out of multiple Russkis. Some teams have a hard enough time with just one. However, I will enjoy hating the Russians even more than usual during the Olympics. Watching Canada steamroll them in Vancouver was simply glorious.

  8. nomorekidsinbcn - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    Ok, one thing (European here) … this league stinks, they try so hard to be signififcant and are very expansive but they have ZERO attention (especially not in western europe). BUT, since oligarchs pay bills in the league, 15 million for a super star they pay out of the thank-you-box. Still, there is is no substance in the league and never will

    • lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 15, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      I just think of the time they had their own winter classic in Red Square a few years back in front of 2500 people. Let me reiterate: 2500 people. I’m sure there’s 2500 people in Red Square at any given moment. This game featured Jagr, Emery, Yashin, Radulov, Marcel Hossa, and famed NHL bust Pavel Brendl. I just can’t understand the apathy towards hockey in Russia, considering the legacy of the Red Army teams and various all-stars throughout the years.

  9. ntvd7 - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:05 AM


  10. redgreentape - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Maybe, Just maybe, Behind closed doors, Devils say ” hey pal, how would you like to go back home with a little cash? Money and Cap space is a little tight. “

  11. mpg44 - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Only four years?? What’s the matter kovy , do you have commitment issues? Classless coward!!

  12. jkay1818 - Jul 15, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    A lot of interesting comments on here, some a little off topic because it is hard to compare an NHL contract to jobs that we have. It’s even impossible to compare NHL contracts to NFL contracts. Someone mentioned we don’t sign contacts as employees. what companies do you work for? for the past decade or so i have been signing contracts, non competes etc. Most do. I agree with someone’s point where if you aren’t happy you leave and do what is best for you. Same way someone finds a new job with higher pay or a better quality of life. Iblend mentioned they paid for schooling etc and it would be crazy to jerk them over. These companies don’t give two f#cks if they jerk over their employees so i dont know what youre saying. A person with a family, tuition, loans a mortgage, do yu think they care when it comes to cutting jobs? A lot of you are comparing apples and oranges here. Owners and players screw eachother over all the time. when a player who was once great isnt performing, we call for their head or ask to be cut or a buyout. screwing the player over. When the player turns the tables its a travesty. I dont agree with his decision because i know it must be tough for devil fans but its like any other job, a business.

    • ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      i’ll go ahead and say that a majority of employees in America did not sign a working contract with their employer. of course, i’m still somewhat young and have only have a couple serious jobs so take this with a grain of salt, but i’ve had 6 jobs. only ONE had me sign with them, after providing for me with tuition costs. it was mutual. aside from bonuses, raises, what have you, they don’t give give give to me and i don’t give give give to them. employee/employer relationships are mutual and beneficial for both.

      and i was replying to the guy that started the comparison. if you’re not under contract, there’s nothing wrong with leaving the employer to take a better opportunity. if you’re under contract, it’s a dick move to the employer… nothing more.

      and you’re talking about owners jerking over their players in general. what have the Devils done to Kovy? did they jerk him over? no. would they have at SOME point? we don’t know. but he took the first dick move, he’s the dick. if the owners screwed him, they’d be the dick. that’s all i’ve said the whole time.

      to say we’re comparing apples and oranges is a bit hypocritical. you said “when a player who was once great isnt performing, we call for their head or ask to be cut or a buyout. screwing the player over.” so lets flip it, as you did. when did the OWNERS not perform for Kovy, causing him to screw them over? did they not give Kovy a check? did they not provide facilities for him to do his job? no, they perform quite well, as a matter of fact. he left a company that was working with him. i’ll stand by it, dick move.

      • dueman - Jul 15, 2013 at 2:20 PM

        I’m with you ibieiniid, 100% on this situation, and I just have to add that I’m a little shocked that so many people are actually defending this move. Does he have the right to make this choice? Sure he does, but a person also has the right to not hold a door for a little old lady too. Having the right to do something does not mean that, “doing that something” is honourable. This was a dick move period, and the fact that he had a right to do it is why it’s a dick move! It’s the fact that he thought only of himself, and not of the team that paid him handsomely, and is now without their star player, a lost 1st round draft pick, and a $250,000 fine for the next 12 years as a direct result of his choice, that makes this a dick move.

  13. jimeejohnson - Jul 15, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    Sarah Palin quit a job she swore to do. Nobody gave her a hard time. Uh, on second thought….!

    • ibieiniid - Jul 15, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      lol i knew this would get political eventually.

      • jimeejohnson - Jul 16, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        I was just kidding. Sarah Palin can probably skate. Nobody’s all bad.

      • ibieiniid - Jul 16, 2013 at 1:48 PM

        nah i’m not a Palin supporter. i just saw SOME sort of polititalk coming with all that tax mention up top.

        also, she prly give a mean bj =X

  14. oruacat2 - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:22 PM

    It’s his life, it’s a business, blah, blah, blah, I get it. No problem.
    Where he screwed NJ was with his timing, waiting until after the draft and after the first few crazy days of free agency.

  15. joeyg88 - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    Haha awesome move for kovi. Didn’t want to pay that income tax

  16. dlk75150 - Jul 16, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    NHL strikes when next CBA is up and that league will strike for the kill and get NHL players.

  17. jimeejohnson - Jul 16, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    Bottom line here, is that nobody would ever answer his question “what exit”!

  18. ducksk - Jul 16, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    Russian Translator: The general would like to know if you will drink a toast with him.
    General George Patton: Thank the general and tell him I have no desire to drink with him or any other Russian son of a biatch.
    Translator: [Nervous] I can’t tell him that!
    Patton: Tell him, every word.

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